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The Preamble

The AA Preamble – What it is, History & What it Means

For as long as Alcoholics Anonymous has been around, it can still be a new program for those seeking out sobriety. The fellowship began in the early 1930’s by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S., who were individuals meeting with each other to try and stay sober. During their meetings, they realized that talking about their alcoholism with one another was what helped them stay sober. After developing the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, they moved forward to try and help other alcoholics obtain and maintain sobriety by attending meetings and working the program offered in the fellowship of AA.

The AA Preamble:

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.


For anyone who has ever attended a meeting, they are familiar with how they usually work. A meeting generally begins at a designated time and many meetings open with the AA preamble.

The preamble is a brief explanation and summary for newcomers. It is a short page that describes what the program of AA is and what the requirements are for attendance. The preamble emphasizes that AA is a nonprofit organization and that it is self-supporting. For newcomers, one of the most important things to take away from their first meeting is that the only requirement for Alcoholics Anonymous is the desire to stop drinking. There are no other dues or fees required for attendance or membership.

The Birth of the AA Grapevine

The preamble wasn’t developed until after the program of AA had already been around for several years. The AA Grapevine was a journal for the members of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was developed to be distributed internationally so that members all over could read the first-person stories of other members in the program. The journal also included news and notes about what was happening at the AA central office so that everyone could be kept up to date and informed on anything going on, near or far.

The AA Grapevine is still around today and still shares the stories of its members all over the world. It is written and edited by members of the fellowship and it is intended to be read by anyone who is a member of AA. The Grapevine not only tells the stories of individuals in the program, but it helped shape how news for AA members was distributed and received.

The Birth of the Preamble

After the Grapevine had made its appearance in the program, the editors of the journal decided to write a page about the program itself. The preamble, which is a brief description and explanation of the program, was developed in 1947. The preamble does exactly what it was intended to do – it explains what the program is, how it works and what the requirements are to become a member.

In the beginning, the preamble stated that the “only requirement for membership was the honest desire to stop drinking.” This phrase and page had been used for many years until about 1958 when a delegate at the General Service Conference pointed out that the phrase may need to be worded differently. The word “honest” may confuse or steer newcomers away because it was nearly impossible to know what an “honest desire” to stop drinking is; the desire to stop was simply enough. The deletion of the word was approved by members and the phrase now says “the desire to stop drinking” in the preamble.

The Preamble Today

The preamble is still something that is regularly used today. In meetings, the preamble is read by a member or the chairperson of each meeting. It is a helpful way to introduce and summarize the program to many newcomers. For members who attend meetings regularly, this page can almost be read by memory. Although the preamble is not in the Big Book of AA, it’s description was designed from the foreword of the book so that anyone in attendance can understand the only requirements of members in the program.

Knowing that there are no dues or fees expected of members can help newcomers understand the program better. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous focuses on this idea so that anyone who attends meetings can know that there is hope for recovery and sobriety from this disease. The program was created to show people with the desire to stop drinking that recovery from this disease is possible for individuals who want to stop drinking. Attending meetings and working the program has proven results that members in the fellowship of AA can get sober and maintain sobriety if they choose to keep utilizing the tools and resources provided by the fellowship.

The preamble can be accessed on the official website of Alcoholics Anonymous. When a newcomer chooses to attend an AA meeting, the preamble will be read to help remind them that they are always welcome in the fellowship, as long as they meet the only requirements necessary to join.

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